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Over the past couple of decades, a huge importance has been placed on the exploration of space. Humans have realized that at the rate they are currently abusing the planet Earth, it will be gone sooner than they could have ever imagined. Learning more about Earth’s surrounding environment has become the focal point of today’s scientific research and rightfully so. This is why three of the more influential people of our time are partnering up to further advance our knowledge of space.
Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner are going to be working on a project they have named Breakthrough Starship. They announced so on April 12th of 2015 and are still in the planning process. They each have plenty of wealth which makes such a mission possible but more importantly they are all fairly philanthropic in their views. They are all willing to sacrifice some of their wealth to possibly further the survival of the human race and expect nothing in return.
The spacecraft they plan to launch is reportedly the smallest and lightest spacecraft ever built. This nanocraft is supposedly smaller than the iPhone yet it can collect some of the most complex scientific data with it. Because of this lack of weight, along with the light beams and light sails that will assist it, the nanocraft will reach the nearest star system roughly twenty years after whenever it is launched.
And this is the goal of Breakthrough Starshot. Reaching Alpha Centauri; the nearest star system to planet earth, being approximately 4.37 light years away, is the purpose of this exploration. Yuri Milner explained that the overarching goal “is to be a program of research and innovation exploring the questions of life in the universe.” They see the opportunity that is waiting for humans in this star system.
There are billions of stars in Alpha Centauri, all of which are being orbited by a planet or even several planets, much like our sun’s role in our solar system. They recognize that this presents a great chance that there could be something of importance in the star system. Scientists have long believed that Alpha Centauri could contain planets that could home humans. So whether or not this program discovers one of these planets or it discovers some type of extraterrestrial life, it will have been a success in the eyes of its leaders.
However, in saying this, it is also important to keep in mind that even if on of these goals are not achieved, there will be a lot of useful information gathered by the nanocraft. There are some scientific instruments that are aboard and will be able to collect and send valuable information back to Earth.
More importantly it will be a huge symbolic victory for the human race. Alpha Centauri is extremely far away and under normal circumstances can only be reached in approximately thirty thousand years however, Breakthrough Starshot should be able to reach it in twenty years. This proves to the rest of the species that space exploration is very feasible at this moment and furthermore it provides a substantial amount of hope that even if the Earth were to break down, finding an alternative is very close to a reality.
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